Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday...aka Superstitious Friday

Velký pátek (Good Friday) is upon us, and it is a solemn day.  A day of remembrance, mourning, and fasting.  It is also a day to bake bread to protect your home from fire, amongst other things.  

You see, on Velký pátek, Czech cooks prepare the traditional holiday bread, which under no circumstances can be cut or eaten until the priest says, "Christ is risen!" (Kristus vstal z mrtvých!) on Easter Sunday.  You best be shooing the children and spouses out of the kitchen before they bust into the bread and the house bursts into flames.

It's also a custom to mark a new loaf of bread with the sign of the cross before cutting it, in order to bless it and thank God for it.  Bread baked on Velký pátek, if left to harden in the oven, can be kept all year and its presence protects the house from fire.  I don't want my home to burn down, but I certainly don't want stale bread sitting around attracting critters.  Damn it, what is one to do?!

While I ponder stale bread vs home burning down, let's move on to even more Good Friday superstitions.  What, you thought the bread was it?

Hahhahahaha, silly you!

We have more, lots more!  And you best adhere to them... or you will die.  Better get a move on as it is Good Friday and the day is short:

- Women put quilts out to air out in order to chase illnesses out of the house. 
- People get up very early (damn, sorry I already screwed you on this one) and hurry down to the river (a stream, babbling brook, puddle in middle of the road will all do) where they wash themselves with cold water and then cross the brook or stream with bare legs because this ensures good health for the entire next year. 
- Take your daughter down to wash at the well.  Don't have a well?  Best find something that will do for your daughter's future lies in your hands.  You see, this ritual ensures that your daughter will be pretty and well spoken for. 

It is also believed that water sprites come out onto dry land on Good Friday... perhaps you'll spot one when you're washing down by the river.  Looks like this:

In my town, this is the local drunk.

Moving on...

Now for some small talk, "How's the weather where you are?"  No, seriously, how's the weather?  This is important because the weather for the whole year is foretold based on Good Friday's weather. For instance, if it rains on Good Friday then the rest of the year will be dry. Velký pátek deštivý dělává rok žíznivý ("A rainy Good Friday makes for a thirsty year.").  Based on this, it is safe to conclude that if it is dry today, the rest of the year it will rain.  Bummer for me.

We also have some legends associated with Good Friday (shocker).  I'll share two of them with you:

- Anyone can look upon the sun without being blinded by its glare.  Try it, let me know how it goes for you.

- High up in the mountains amidst the cliffs there is the stone figure of a maiden. She is seated and holds in her lap an unfinished shirt, also of stone. Each year, on Velký pátek, at the hour of the Passion, she sews a stitch: one year, one stitch. When the shirt is finished, the world will end. Everything under the sun will die, and Judgement Day will be at hand.

I told you we were a grim bunch.

BUT, that being said I will leave you on a good note. No one should work on Good Friday out of respect ... or from superstitious fears because it is said that if one works, it will bring misfortune.

Do what you will with that, but if you're at work, may I suggest busting out of there as fast as possible screaming about avoiding misfortune as you tear down the door on your way out.

Happy Good Friday!

PS.  Do not eat meat.  Or you will die....